The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on remand from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Upon consideration of plaintiff's motion, the opposition thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record in this case, the Court will grant defendants' Rule 60(b) motion.
This dispute grows out of a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552 et seq, request initiated by plaintiff on December 22, 1997 concerning the FBI investigation of the 1972 kidnapping of his mother, Virginia Lewis Piper. Ultimately, the parties reached an agreement culminating in plaintiff sampling 357 pages from the approximated 80,000 released. The sample documents contained many redactions and withholdings pursuant to FOIA exemptions.
Having completed its search for documents in response to plaintiff's request, the Government moved for summary judgment on May 16, 2003, and plaintiff responded with a cross-motion for summary judgment on June 16, 2003.
In Piper v. Dep't of Justice, 294 F. Supp. 2d 16 (D.D.C. 2003) (Lamberth, J.), this Court granted the Government's motion for summary judgment regarding the adequacy of the FBI's search and its application of FOIA Exemptions 7(D), (E), and (C), except for documents 206 and 309. The Court also noted some 23 documents that the Department of Justice ("DOJ") redacted without any justification and ordered that these documents be released in full. DOJ had released to plaintiff redacted versions of these 23 documents but had neglected to label these documents with file or serial numbers. Finding the Government failed to justify the withholding of these documents under the asserted exemptions, the Court ordered them released to plaintiff.
Displeased with the Court's demand for full release of the 23 documents, DOJ filed a motion requesting the court to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) on December 15, 2003. On March 26, 2004, this Court denied DOJ's motion to alter or amend judgment. See Piper v. Dep't of Justice, 312 F. Supp. 2d 17 (D.D.C. 2004) (Lamberth, J.).
On August 18, 2004, DOJ filed a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment because it was finally able to locate the 23 documents and file its reasons for redactions. DOJ also moved the Court of Appeals to stay its proceedings until this court had an opportunity to rule on its 60(b) motion. Their appeal was denied.
On June 13, 2005, this Court stated that "although the court cannot grant DOJ's Rule 60(b) motion while plaintiff's appeal is pending, the court would grant the motion if it had the authority should the Court of Appeals remand the case for such proceedings in accordance with a request from DOJ." See Piper v. Dep't. of Justice, 374 F. Supp. 2d 73, 81 (D.D.C. 2005) (Lamberth, J.).
On August 25, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia remanded this case "to allow the district court to grant the government's Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) motion, as the district court has indicated its willingness to do." See Order, Piper v. Dep't of Justice, et al., No. 04-5198 (D.C. Cir. 2005). On September 16, 2005, plaintiff filed a supplemental opposition memorandum and seven days later defendants filed their response. Plaintiff also submitted a notice of filing of a recently published news article on December 12, 2005 and defendants filed their response on December 16, 2005.
Despite this Court's decision in Piper v. Dep't. of Justice, 374 F. Supp. 2d 73, plaintiff argues that the Court did not apply the current legal test for FOIA exemptions 6 and 7(C) under Nat'l Archives & Records Admin. v. Favish, 541 U.S. 157 (2004). Defendants argue that this Court's disposition of defendants' 60(b) motion comports with the FOIA and the Supreme Court's decision in Favish. The Court agrees with defendants.
In Favish, the Supreme Court stated, "[w]here the privacy concerns addressed in Exemption 7(C) are present," the general "rule that [a party] need not offer a reason for requesting the information must be inapplicable." 541 U.S. at 172. Instead, "the exemption requires the person ...